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Arniel’s System Evident in More than just Wins and Losses

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

From day one, Scott Arniel knew his system would be a work-in-progress.

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The first-year head coach wants the Blue Jackets to play at a high tempo and create offense by eliminating the opponent’s time and space.

And in the National Hockey League, teams that experience the most success play a likeminded style.

Since training camp began, Arniel and his staff have gradually integrated the philosophy: through video work, on-ice drills and primarily teaching during the club's exhibition schedule.

Now that the season has hit stride, he is getting a pretty good look at what has worked, and what needs worked on.

"Right now, we're a team that's learning how to have success, and how to deal with failure as well," Arniel said.

The Blue Jackets' 2-2-0 record at Nationwide Arena is something that Arniel wants cleaned up. On the road, Columbus has played simple hockey and done a respectable job managing the game.

Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks came after some line juggling from the coach.

Better attacking speed and defensive-zone coverage against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday resulted in the team’s second home-ice win of the season, a 2-1 decision.

If the Blue Jackets could create offense through net traffic and hard work, Arniel thought they had a good chance to score against a stout Flyers defense.

"It was a solid three periods, and we came out early on and played hard," Arniel said. "We wanted to back up the good game we played in Chicago with another one.

"It's a big step for this young team."

It was the best game of the young season on Saturday night for Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek, who were joined by captain Rick Nash on the No. 1 line.

The trio was a threat with the puck on numerous occasions, and was responsible for a crucial goal late in the second period to pull the Blue Jackets to 2-1.

"We didn't spend much time in our zone," Voracek said. "We spent most of the game in their zone.

"We have to keep it simple at home, too—just like we do on the road."

The most noticeable shift in Saturday's game was a presence at the net. Arniel made sure that each line had a player that would be able to retrieve pucks and get to the front.

Blue Jackets winger Derek Dorsett was one of those players. Along with line mates R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, they established offensive zone time and shifts that led to pivotal goals in the game.

The team is learning with each game, Dorsett said, and the results have been better when they do the simple things.

"Our line had a bit of a rough start (on Saturday), but we got it going," Dorsett said. "If we can find that consistent competitive level (as a team), we're going to be fine."

The encouraging sign for the Blue Jackets is a 5-3-0 record and knowing that better hockey lies ahead.

As Arniel learns more about his players and the players learn more about his expectations, the coach believes that there is a lot more to get from his team.

"It helps when you have four lines going and four lines contributing (like in Chicago)," Arniel said. "Some nights, you're just hoping that you don't get scored on—especially with Toews coming one shift and Hossa the next."

The stability from four solid lines has made matchups easier to handle. With each unit playing aggressive, there is confidence in handling the opposition.

Though the Blue Jackets are still students in the coach's system, there's no substitute for hard work. Arniel has highlighted the importance of winning battles for loose pucks and worrying about themselves.

"(In Chicago) I was very confident that whoever was out there was going to be responsible," Arniel said.

"It's coming. If we continue to (play as well at home as on the road), we're going to make some forward motion."

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